Relief Society General Presidency Addresses Four Key Questions about Women and the Priesthood

Relief Society Presidency

Speaking to a crowd of more than 3,000 women in the Marriott Center on the BYU campus Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, Sister Sharon Eubank, first counsellor, and Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, discussed four specific questions that address how the priesthood fits into the personal lives of women everywhere.

What Does It Mean for a Woman to Be Endowed with Priesthood Power?

Addressing the first question, Sister Bingham said, 'When we are endowed with priesthood power, it is an infinite source that constantly renews and can never be exhausted. Each woman must qualify to receive the gift and can then continue to draw on that power as she faithfully keeps the covenants she has made.'

Sister Jean Bingham

She stated that the purpose of the priesthood is to help God's children access 'the grace and power of Jesus Christ's Atoning sacrifice and become more like Him.' Sister Bingham continued, 'Being endowed with priesthood power — God’s power — means having greater power to press forward in fulfilling God’s purposes ... It magnifies us to be more than we could be on our own … power to receive revelation, power to act.' Sharing a story from when she was set apart to serve on the Primary general board some nine years ago, Sister Bingham explained how she began to cry, thinking of her personal inadequacies for such a position. The late Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who set her apart that day, told her, 'Don't spend a nano-second thinking about your inadequacies.' His words helped her understand that the Lord, through the power of the priesthood, will make up the difference. Sister Bingham concluded that Heavenly Father is generous with His power and is 'anxious to share it with those who are willing to do His work in His ways.'

How Do Women Receive Priesthood Power?

Sister Reyna i. Aburto

Sister Aburto explained that when women participate in priesthood ordinances and keep their covenants, they receive priesthood power. She added that each individual woman has access to priesthood power through her covenants and righteousness: 'No one can take it from her, but no one can give priesthood power to her outside of the covenants and her individual striving to live true to those covenants.' Sister Aburto shared that she often hears women confuse the priesthood with the offices of the priesthood. Single women or women whose husbands do not hold a priesthood office are not cut off from priesthood power and blessings. While they may need to call on brothers with a Melchizedek priesthood office for blessings, she emphasized, 'they are nevertheless themselves a source of priesthood power for their own homes.' She continued, 'Priesthood power is God's power in the lives of men and women who keep their covenants. Priesthood authority is the permission or license to perform specific priesthood duties and comes from ordination to priesthood office and from being set apart for callings in the Church. Priesthood authority is conferred by the laying of hands under the direction of those who have priesthood keys.' For women, this authority comes in the form of a calling. For men, it is in the form of a calling or an office in the priesthood.

What Is the Difference of “Before” and “After” Receiving That Power?

Sister Sharon Eubank

Sister Eubank began by saying that there is an inherent power in kind, moral, charitable, and good women: 'When a person resists the negative influences in their surroundings and keeps the two great commandments to love God and love their neighbor — whether or not this person has made formal covenants to do so — there is already godly power at work in that individual’s life.'

She clarified that when a woman makes covenants with God, her power can be greatly magnified in three specific ways:

  • First, a woman's power can be magnified by knowledge.

She explained, 'By making our most sacred covenants, the Spirit opens up great treasures of knowledge to us as we sacrifice, consecrate, obey the law of the gospel by living it in hard circumstances, and stay faithful in our relationships.'

  • Second, power can be magnified by community.

Sister Eubank continued, 'When the Lord organized quorums and Relief Societies after a priesthood pattern, He was giving community to His sons and daughters. We draw strength and sisterhood from one another because of the Relief Society. We teach each other. We comfort one another. We accept one another — or at least we should. A worldwide sisterhood is a great gift of power.'

  • Third, priesthood power can be magnified when individuals choose to act in the name of the Lord in their callings and assignments.

Sister Eubank concluded that all callings and leadership positions in the Church are 'authorized positions of authority in the work of God and there are specific spiritual gifts that accompany a person who has been set apart to function with priesthood authority in a specific calling.' The main difference, she noted is in 'the ways we magnify and lift others.' Sister Eubank spoke at a UN summit in Geneva on refugees and preventing religious discrimination. Read more here.

What Is the Church Teaching Now about the Priesthood and How It Applies to Women?

In recent years, prophets and apostles have reaffirmed again and again that priesthood power is accessible by all—men and women—and that it blesses all God's children the same. recently highlighted how women are essential participants in the work of the priesthood. Nevertheless, Sister Bingham acknowledged that, for some women, it can be a source of frustration to know that women are not ordained to the priesthood through offices.

Relief Society sisters

Quoting Sheri Dew, a former counsellor in the Relief Society general presidency, Sister Bingham read: 'The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, the fullness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together.” Sister Bingham went on to explain that receiving the blessings and priesthood power available through the endowment is a goal that every woman can reach, and added that a woman 'is never without access to priesthood power as long as she is keeping her covenants.' Sister Bingham concluded that the interdependence of women and men “in accomplishing God’s work through His priesthood power, is central to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and will help prepare the world for the Savior’s Second Coming.”